the meeting went well (was: Re: [Fsfe-ie] Free Software for Schools - Urgent)

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at
Tue Apr 20 18:00:15 CEST 2004

> Ciaran requested that he do the presentation instead of me, so any

I'm just back now.  I think it went well.  I had a 15-20 minute slot but
I think I talked to them for ~35 minutes, so they weren't pushing me out
the door.

Their primary interest was cost but they also liked that they could be
using 100% legal/licenesed software, and I think they liked the idea of
having access to a more complete array of software.

They were mainly looking for software to teach secondary school subjects
such as history and geography.  I had no suggestions there.  Anyone?

I didn't mention that GNU/Linux comes in Irish, it was on my page but a
question cut me off as I was getting to it.  At some point I lost track
of where I was (on the script) and I rambled about free software being
pure capitalism and proprietary software being like the communist
command-economies which rely on central control.  This wasn't on my
script, but as I said, I got stuck and rambled.  It got a laugh though.
(I've omitted it from the transcript below since I can't remember when I
said it.)  I forgot to mention WINE, it was on my script but I missed

Here's the bones of my spiel, plus an attempted transcript from memory
of the Q&A at the end:


When we say free we mean free as in freedom not cost.  Free speech, free
market - but often zero cost too.  Particularly cheap longterm due to
lack of lock-in and the free market creating real competition.  No
complicated licensing schemes.

Anyone is free so make copies.  You can install the software on as many
departments as you like, give it to teachers and students, buy once
install everywhere.  Install as much software as you like, no school
teaches Photoshop since the fees would be prohibitive for an
introductory course, but our image manipulation program is free so you
can install it if you want [I couldn't say the word "Gimp"].  So you use
as much as you like, and kids learn a wider variety of software.
Install your choice of versions, no incompatibility, everyone upgrades
to the state of the art together.  No software is held back due to
requirements that it work on a 1998 or 1995 version of an OS.

There are three ways to use free software, you can jump completely to
GNU/Linux, you can use the cross-platform free software such as Mozilla
and OpenOffice, or you can GPL any custom software you buy.  The ECDL
can be done through free software.

Built on the Unix model, secure from the ground up, no worrys about
viruses or kids installing screensavers with trojan horses etc.  Secure
from threats inside and outside.

In the 60's all software was free software, since it's just a set of
instructions to make a machine work, the companies gave the instructions
with the hardware.  In the 70's companies started to realise that if the
hardware came with no instructions people would have no choice but to
buy them, so they kept the instructions secret and used copyright to
prevent people from sharing the software or from looking at what the
software is really doing.  In the 80's, Richard Stallman began the free
software movement to replace the proprietary software with software
which people could again copy, modify, and publish modified versions.

[the previous person displayed some software which included internet
filtering] There are two ways to teach ethics, one is by blocking kids
from seeing websites with bad language, but also with free software you
can teach ethics by example.  If a student is interested in any of the
software used in the school, they can have a copy for themselves.

It's legal.  Free software is developed by the user communities, so it's
never crippled to encourage you to use more, but also the licensing is
simple so that developers can develop and users can use without any
confusing licensing issues.  You can never be raided or audited to see
how much software is on your computers, and when a new version comes out
you don't have to tell anyone or register or pay anyone, you just
upgrade, if or when you want.

[the questions were not asked in this order, there may have been others]

"Where do I get a copy?"
=> From a bookshop, computer shop, or the Internet.  But once you get
one copy, you can install it on 100 or 1000 machines, or make 20 copies
so that others can install it.

"Is GNU/Linux a type of Linux?"
=> :)

"Would the look&feel be intuitive to a Windows user?"
=> It's quite intuitive, desktop is the current focus and a lot of
companies are working on it.  The goal of free software is to give
freedom to as many computer users as possible, so most desktop software
is designed to be similar to the Windows interface - without the need
for backwards compatibility.

"I heard that OpenOffice's Access equivalent isn't up to standard?"
=> I haven't seen OpenOffice's Database thing, so I don't know what it's
like but I do know that it's capable of performing the ECDL

"Who funds free software?"
=> Sun bought StarOffice and paid developers, IBM fund kernel and
compiler hackers, all the distributions fund bits and it all
accumulates.  [I should have said "Everyone but Microsoft"]

"Does it need very modern hardware?"
=> No, there's no chip manufacturers pushing for the software to have
bigger requirements, and only features that people want are added so
it's not bloated.

"Does it run on old hardware?"
=> I think it runs on 386's

Ciarán O'Riordan
Irish Free Software Organisation:

More information about the FSFE-IE mailing list